State Wrestling: Graham gets nine to finals; Team races evolve on Day Two


Graham High School has laready wrapped up its ninth straight D-II state title with a day to go.

The threat is real. Cleveland West’s 58-year hold on the record for
most individual state champions in one season may stand for less than
24 more hours. That’s when an astounding nine St. Paris Graham
wrestlers will compete in Division II state finals. As for D-I and III, St. Edward and Troy Christian are STILL the teams to beat.

The threat is real. Cleveland West’s 58-year hold on the record for most individual state champions in one season (six) may stand for less than 24 more hours. That’s when an astounding nine St. Paris Graham wrestlers will compete in Division II state finals.

Friday, at the 72nd annual Ohio High School State Wrestling Championships, Graham commanded the headlines with its continual onslaught on the state record books inside Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.

A day after scoring a record 43.5 points after the first session and qualifying a record 13 wrestlers to the quarterfinals, Graham qualified 12 wrestlers to the semifinals and ended the day with an unfathomable three-session record of 221 points. The D-II record for five sessions is 221.5 points set by Graham last year and the overall tournament scoring record is 229 set by Lakewood St. Edward in 2007. Both will be obliterated.

Hunting Valley University School is in second in D-II with 62.5 points.

The Falcons have already wrapped up their ninth straight D-II state title and 11th overall. Only St. Edward has more state wrestling titles. Maple Heights is in third (10).

Graham’s performance/domination has come to be expected.

The Falcons were national champions last year – when they qualified six wrestlers to finals – and are currently No. 2 in the country according to the Amateur Wrestling News. Thing is, this year’s team is better.

The Falcons are powered by four seniors who have earned NCAA Division I scholarships, a first for the program. Last year’s senior class set the previous season-high at three scholarships.

Senior David Taylor is looking to become Ohio’s 17th four-time state champion when he competes in the 135 final. Taylor, ranked No. 1 in the country, is headed to Iowa State.

Senior Zach Neibert (125) goes for his second state title, while Brian Stephens (145) goes for his first. James Mannier (171) made the semifinals before losing in overtime. He’ll shoot for third.

Neibert is headed to Northern Illinois. Mannier and Stephens are headed to the Naval Academy and Virginia Tech, respectively.

“I look at these four guys and I’m very proud,” Graham head coach Jeff Jordan said. “They are great kids. They’ve done a great job.”

Said Mannier: “Neibert is just Neibert. He has his own funk. Brian had a let down last year at state but this year he’s just been persistent and consistent. He just beats every one down. I love that cause that’s kind of like how I wrestle.

“David simply never quits.”

Something to think about with this senior class is that it’s not a stretch to envision seeing Taylor, Neibert and Stephens wrestling each other in the NCAA Tournament one day. That’s a possibility the trio has already pictured.

“The way I see it, I know Taylor wants to go 57/65 and Stephens is going 49/57,” Neibert said. “I’ll be 49/57 so potentially there’s a chance we could all see each other. It’s very possible. Only time will tell.”

Said Stephens: “It would be awesome and it would de different since we’ve wrestled each other forever. Neibert is going to get big. Taylor is going to get big and we could see each other at the NCAA. That would be cool to a point, but I’d prefer to stay away from the Graham guys (laughing).

“I know how hard they train. How tough they are.”

Others learned that lesson Friday. School concludes Saturday.


As late as Friday afternoon it appeared that St. Edward would be pushed to the finish in the D-I team race by Wadsworth and possibly Massillon Perry. The Eagles went to bed Friday night just fine, though.

Thanks to a disastrous semifinal session for Wadsworth, which saw its wrestlers go 0-4, the Grizzlies watched as a five-point team race after two sessions turned into a 95.5-47 runaway after three.

St. Ed wrestlers went 4-0 in their semifinal matches to give the Eagles the inside track as they seek their 13th straight D-I title and 25th overall.

Perry is currently in second place with 73 points, while Brecksville Broadview Heights is third (72). St. Ignatius is fourth (64) and Wadsworth fifth.


After the second session it looked like two-time defending D-III state champion Troy Christian was in trouble. The Eagles had suffered some unlikely losses and trailed Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy 54-52 in the team standings.

Then the championship semifinals started.

TC went 4-0 in its semifinal matches and dominated the middle weights, sending representatives to state finals matches at 140, 145, 152 and 160.

TC ended the third session with a 98-89.5 lead over second place Monroeville. CVCA dropped to third (79) after its five wrestlers went 2-3 in semifinal bouts.

Monroeville and Troy Christian both have four wrestlers alive in finals, but TC has an additional two wrestlers who will compete in seventh-place matches. It’s going to be close.


Whether or not the Eagles win the D-II state title or not, no one is questioning their validity as one of the state’s top programs. Last year Monroeville had four state champions, and this year it’s likely they’ll have four again.

Sophomore Hunter Stieber (119), junior Logan Stieber (125), sophomore Cam Tessari (130) and sophomore Chris Phillips (171) all dominated their opponents en route to state finals berths.

The foursome wrestled in 12 combined state matches and won five by pin, three by tech fall, two by major decision and two by decision. 


There are several state finals matches that occurred just a week ago at the district level. They are:

1. D-I 112 Final: St. Edward’s Gus Sako vs St. Ignatius’s Jerome Robinson.
This meeting occurred seven days ago at the Mentor District and Robinson won 9-6. Both are juniors. Sako was a state champion at 103 last year, while Robinson was third in 2007. Robinson qualified for state last year, but lost his first two matches at 119. Do we even have to mention what “St. Edward vs St. Ignatius” invokes?

2. D-I 130 Final: Miamisburg’s Shawn Fayette vs Lakota East’s Ty Davis.
At Fairfield last week, Fayette pinned Davis in 3:36 in the final. Fayette, a junior, was state runner-up last year at 125. Davis is a sophomore.

3. D-I 135 Final: Mason’s Robert Shepherd vs Cin. St. Xavier’s John Gallagher.
Shepherd decisioned Gallagher 5-3 in the finals at Fairfield last week. A junior, Shepherd was sixth at 112 last year, while Gallagher, a senior, was seventh at 135.

4. D-I 215 Final: Elder’s Orlando Scales vs Hamilton’s Denicos Allen.
Scales, the country’s No. 1 ranked wrestler at 215, beat Allen by major decision (13-1) in last week’s Fairfield District finals.

5. D-III 125 Final: Monroeville’s Logan Stieber vs Patrick Henry’s Alex Lopez.
Stieber dominated this meeting last week, winning by tech fall (18-3) in the finals at Owens CC. Of course, who hasn’t Stieber dominated? Lopez, a junior, was seventh last year at 112. He’s faired far better this season.

6. D-III 152 Final: Blanchester’s Jake Howe vs Troy Christian’s Kyle Burns.
Howe pinned Burns in 3:21 in last week’s Fairmont District final. Howe, a junior, was eighth and seventh, the last two years, while Burns, also a junior, has seen limited action this year (just 21-6).


Mayfield junior Cory Hayes has had a run to remember. Hayes had to forfeit his D-I 171 district quarterfinal match at Perry last week and therefore fell into the consolation bracket. Since then he’s reeled off seven straight wins and finds himself one shy of a state championship. Hayes tackles Perry’s Nick Heflin in the final. Both wrestlers are from the Perry district (Heflin is the champ) but they did not face each other last week.


There will be no match up of unbeatens in any state final this year. That possibility went out the window when Steubenville’s Branko Busick fell to Toledo Central Catholic’s Dave Pickerel via default in the D-II 215 semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, undefeated Tyler Houska (35-0) of Medina Highland made the final.

Other undefeated wrestlers who will be competing for state titles include: Jamie Clark, St. Edward (34-0, 119, D-I), Orlando Scales, Cincinnati Elder (38-0, 215, D-I), Nick Brascetta, Graham (44-0, 103, D-II), David Taylor, Graham (47-0, 135, D-II), Nick Goebel, Bloomdale Elmwood (47-0, 103, D-III), Spencer Pierce, Richwood North Union (43-0, 112, D-III), Logan Stieber, Monroeville (34-0, 125, D-III), Zach Toal, Troy Christian (46-0, 160) and Stuart Miller, Delphos Jefferson (47-0, 215, D-III).


New Carlisle Tecumseh senior T.J. Rigel, who finished state runner-up last year, had a huge day in the D-I 145 bracket. In the quarterfinals, Rigel pinned defending state champion (130) Seth Horner of Massillon Perry in 1:56. In the semifinals he handed Upper Arlington senior Kevin Drake his first loss of the year (major decision 19-8).

Rigel faces Cleveland St. Ignatius junior David Habat, a two-time third place finisher, in the 145 final.


In a match worthy of a state final, Broadview Heights senior Jeremy Johnson tangled with Beavercreek’s Adam Walls in a D-I 285 semifinal. Johnson, a nationally-ranked wrestler who finished seventh last year, beat Walls, a three-time state placer in D-II and last year’s runner-up, 5-2.

Now Johnson draws Parma Heights Valley Forge senior James Meder in the final. Meder beat Wadsworth’s Ben Buzzelli 4-0 in the other semifinal. Buzzelli beat Johnson in the finals of last week’s Perry District.


Through three sessions, the state wrestling tournament has generated an attendance figure of 38,040. Friday’s semifinals were witnessed by 12,646.

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